This year’s New York State budget includes a huge victory for farmers and hunger advocates alike with the passage of the Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit!
Each year, millions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables go unharvested here in New York. Much of this produce is perfectly good, but cannot be marketed at retail value due to aesthetic imperfections or other market considerations. At the same time, more than 13% of New Yorkers struggle to have consistent access to healthy food.
The now enacted Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit will assist farmers in donating food into the emergency food system—reducing food waste and getting more food to New Yorkers in need. In short, the bill allows New York farmers to claim up to $5,000 annually through a refundable tax credit equal to 25% of the wholesale value of their donations to emergency food programs. This credit will help cover the steep costs associated with harvesting, processing, and transporting crops, making donations a viable option for New York’s farmers—and getting more fresh food to hungry New Yorkers. And since each maximum credit equals $20,000 of fresh produce, a state expenditure of $1 million would result in $4 million worth of food going to New York’s emergency food programs.
This victory is the result of hard work by a broad and impressive coalition of more than 150 agriculture and anti-hunger groups—including Farm Bureau, Hunger Action Network of New York State, National Young Farmers Coalition, and City Harvest. In passing this tax credit, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature will help compensate farmers for their hard work, increase the amount of much-needed produce in the emergency food system, and make better use of our valuable natural resources.
Of course, our work to reduce food waste, recover food for people in need, and recycle our food scraps is far from over. The Food Recovery and Recycling Act did not make it into the final budget (it’s quite common for a bill of this level of complexity to not pass when first introduced) but it remains a priority for the rest of the legislative session. The Act would require the state’s largest food waste generators to donate excess edible food to local food rescue organizations and to recycle food scraps, rather than sending them to pollution-generating landfills. In New York, food makes up 18% of our municipal solid waste stream—and the vast majority is disposed of in landfills where it breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Paired with the Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit and related administrative and funding actions, the Act would begin to address food waste from farm to fork across the New York State. You can read more about the details of the bill and how it would address food waste in NRDC’s Memo of Support.